A friend of mine asked me what Christmas in Ireland is like. This is my second Christmas here, and while I can't speak for Christmas in Ireland, per se, I would like to point out some key differences in the Irish Christmas experience.
First of all, they have these things called "Christmas crackers." Contrary to the name, Christmas crackers aren't crackers that you eat. They look like this:
and two people pull on each end until it "cracks," and breaks like a wishbone. Inside the tube are various items, depending on where you've bought the cracker (I hear Marks & Spencers have the best ones). There's a little paper crown, a joke, and some little trinket. I like to tell people I've never gotten a Christmas cracker just to see the pitying looks on their faces.
Also, there's "Christmas cake," which is kind of like fruit cake but with a lot more booze in it, and I think it's generally round and often has icing.
What you cannot find: Egg Nog! I have not seen egg nog in the store. (Not that I can drink it.) I'm sure you can find it somewhere at those stores who cater to us ex-pats, and pay a million dollars for it, or you can make your own, but I am not dedicated enough for that jazz. Still, it's weird.
What I'm really missing, and I mean really missing (and have been since the fall) is apple cider. Now, for people not from New England, I'm not talking about the alcoholic fizzy beverage you get at your local pub. I'm talking about the non-alcoholic, non-carbonated, unfiltered, unsweetened apple beverage that you can mull into pure holiday perfection. There is nothing on earth like mulled cider! If you think, oh, how different can it be from apple juice, you have no idea.
What else? Kids go around Christmas caroling...for money. Some people think of it as industrious but I just think of it as extortion.
And as I mentioned last year, you don't get gift boxes with clothing. You are expected to wrap soft items in gift wrap or with a gift bag. Apparently, it's more fun that way. I think it's bogus and it will never feel ok, but this year I gave in. I just didn't have the box inventory!
It appears that the common meal is a turkey AND a ham, which is meat-tastic. Mark and I are headed over in the morning to Uncle Billy's house with a BOATLOAD of presents (seriously, this will be hands down the most presents these three elderly people have ever received for Christmas in their entire lives. basically they gave us money for Christmas and we spent all of it on gifts for them, like fools! ) and will cook the dinner. I've downloaded hours and hours of Christmas music, so I will be sure to play the Anne Murray Christmas album and the John Denver Christmas album (my mom's favorite) and think of my family back home. We got meat-free meat roasts for ourselves, but sakes alive I will miss Tofurkey. Nothing beats fake turkey like Tofurkey, in my humble opinion.
The presents are all wrapped and I can't wait to see everyone's happy faces when they open their gifts. So, all in all, Christmas is the same here in Ireland. Lots of effort, headaches, rushing around, then all you can do is hope it was all worth it. Happy Christmas!